Kyndall went to puppy kindergarten when she was a wee little fur ball. But more recently, she was invited to visit the human kindergarten at Bird Rock Elementary School, located very close to our house. One of the veteran kindergarten teachers, Lorene LaCava, is a long-time acquaintance, but somehow we never before had shown off one of our puppies to her students. Friday we made up for that by taking Kyndall to two of the classes.
In each one, Steve and I briefly told the children what CCI is and what working dogs do. We explained our role as puppy-raisers, and we had Kyndall perform a number of commands. Then we gave each child a chance to come up and shake her paw.
Some kids preferred to forego the shake in favor of just stroking her velvety head and ears.
Throughout she was well-behaved and sweet. On any Cuteness scale, the interactions were definitely a 10. After shake after shake, however, Kyndall starting to look a bit tired. So we finished up by demonstrating how to cradle a puppy.
She looked like she could have been content to do that all afternoon.
For more than a week now, we’ve been following the advice we got last week from Beckie Hein, the puppy program manager for CCI’s Southwest region. When told about Kyndall’s hunger strike, Beckie didn’t sound too worried but suggested we should try mixing her kibble with hot water or warm beef broth. We’ve been using the latter, and all the kibble in the bowl has been disappearing shortly after we present it.
But it’s occurred to me that more trouble might be looming when Kyndall begins her Advance Training next month. Once she’s in the kennel up in Oceanside and is fed only dry food, won’t she turn up her nose at that? So last night I emailed Beckie again and asked if we should try at some point to get her back to eating dry food.
She answered promptly, saying, “I would see if you can slowly wean her off of the beef broth and onto just a bit of warm water added.” That would be easy enough for the kennel staff to duplicate, she said.
So I guess we’ll try that. But we’ll wait a few days. If she continues to eat the moistened dog food, that will be great. But if not, it will break my heart to see her staring mournfully, reproachfully, at a bowl full of morsels that she can’t bring herself to consume.
In all the years Steve and I have been raising CCI puppies (about 9), we’ve never flown with one. We know plenty of other puppy-raisers who’ve done it, and now that Southwest allows CCI trainees aboard its planes, it’s more likely we some day will take a pup aloft too. On the other hand, it strikes both of us as likely to add stress to an experience that all too often is trying.
Today, however, Kyndall and I had an aviation-related outing that
was both stress-free and entertaining. We joined a group of more than a dozen other CCI puppy-raisers at Lindbergh Field for a lesson from the TSA in “how to travel with a service dog.” Veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen, who organized a similar event once before, had us gather near the security checkpoint in Terminal 2. She passed out badges that would enable us to move through security even though we weren’t flying anywhere. Then we moved to a special TSA security line temporarily reserved for the practicing canines.
Dogs aren’t allowed to go through the airport’s complicated radiation scanners, so instead we all passed through an old-style metal-detector. We submitted to the tiresome preliminaries: shedding our shoes and jackets and purses and wallets and sending them on a conveyor belt past a TSA screener. Then each handler made his or her dog sit and stay. The handler (still holding the leash) walked through the portal, turned around, and called the dog to follow.
There was lots of discussion about whether the TSA can make one relinquish one’s leash. Although several puppy-raisers reported being ordered to do so, the team at Lindbergh insisted this was was wrong. You should always be able to retain control of your dog, and can request the option of going through the metal detector (though that does require that you have your hands inspected for explosives.)
Once through the screening station, we got a short tour of the terminal (escorted by no less than FIVE TSA employees — charged, apparently, with keeping our ticket-less pack under control.) Most fascinating to all of us was the introduction to the elegant “pet relief” room within the terminal (“We’re a dog-friendly airport,” the supervisor informed us.)
All the dogs thought this was the most incredibly interesting place imaginable — better than the best Duty Free Shop on earth!
When we could tear the dogs away from that symphony of smells, we headed for a small quiet lounge and practiced Unders…
Our guards seemed delighted to pose with some of the furry participants.
Then they led us to the door, collected our badges, and saw us out.
Marilyn says the supervisor claims to be working to make it possible for us to take the dogs on a visit inside an actual airplane. They’d get a chance to practice lying down in the oh-so-limited foot space. I’d love to do that, if the opportunity ever arises, though I’m sad to say I won’t be doing it with Kyndall. We’ll be taking her up to Oceanside to begin her Advanced Training in less than four weeks. I’m certain that outing will be a lot less fun than today’s.
Worried that Kyndall might have a particularly urgent need for toileting this morning, I hustled her at 6:25 a.m. downstairs and out to the backyard without closing the bedroom or hallway doors, as I normally do. Indeed, she peed approximately one gallon under the fig tree (though that was the only action.) Back in the house, the instant I unclipped her leash, she tore through the first floor, rocketed up the stairs back into the bedroom, and launched herself up onto the bed (where she is NEVER permitted, and where Steve had been dozing.) He angrily ordered her off, and she raced downstairs again and into the front room, doing a lap or two around the table at approximately 100 miles per hour. Clearly, this was not an ill dog. This was an energized dog.
It occurs to me that maybe she was energized because she ate a normal cup and a half of dogfood last night. All through the preparation of my family’s dinner, Kyndall had watched me like a hawk, following my every move. “She’s hungry,” I felt confident. She’d eaten a half cup or so of cottage cheese in the morning, but by the end of the afternoon it seemed clear the caloric deficit had finally caught up to her. When I presented her with the dogfood, she eyed it gloomily. But after a moment, she consumed every morsel.
After that crazed display of energy this morning, I presented her with more dogfood, but this morning, she wasn’t having any of it.
I then fixed up a mixture of white rice and cottage cheese and presented that to her. She appeared to find it yummy…
…and licked the bowl clean.
As soon as the CCI offices opened, I called Becky Hein, the puppy program manager. Scarcely had I begun to tell her about Kyndall’s behavior when she blurted out, “This is an epidemic!” Becky explained that she had recently heard similar stories from at least 3 or 4 other puppy-raisers. She was intrigued that all the hunger-strikers were females. Maybe their hormones were having some impact on their appetites.
I felt relieved to hear that Kyndall wasn’t the only suddenly picky eater. “I have to say I’ve never seen a dog waste away from not eating,” Becky reassured me further. Like one of my blog readers, she suggested that we try moistening Kyndall’s food with hot water or chicken broth. But she also seemed to be urging a course of Tough Love: removing the uneaten kibbles after 10 minutes and reoffering them later. Or cutting down on the amount offered at breakfast. Becky seemed pretty confident that Kyndall would eventually get back into a kibble-eating groove. Sounds good to me.
Kyndall seems very perky this morning. Steve commented that maybe she was happy she finally had gotten us to feed her something better than Eukanuba Large-Breed Dogfood. “She’s probably thinking, ‘It’s taken me a year and a half to train them, but thank God they’ve finally come around,'”he theorized.
It’s true that she refused to even glance at the cup of dogfood I put in her bowl. So I fed her all the plain yogurt I had left (only a half cup or so), and she lapped that up eagerly.
I plan to go out soon and buy some cottage cheese for her (I can’t cook her plain rice until we get home tomorrow.) But clearly, I need to consult with the puppy experts at CCI in Oceanside about how to deal with this new wrinkle. Is it illness? Or culinary fastidiousness? I’ve heard from the folks who are raising Kyndall’s sister, Kimono, who report that “Kimono eats far more leisurely than any Lab we’ve ever known. It’s like she chews each individual kibble several times, instead of just inhaling the whole bowl as our Lab is want to do. At the same time, I can leave her in the car with a ziploc full of dog food in easy reach, which I could never do with the labs.”
Steve insists Kyndall just wants to be fed something more befitting a true Princess. Like live rabbits.
Is Kyndall sick? That’s what’s worrying me at the moment. Clearly something has been irritating her stomach. This apparently started last weekend, when she stayed with two sets of puppy-sitters while Steve and I went up to Palm Springs to attend the American Documentary Film Festival there. (Kyndall behaves very well in movie theaters, generally, but subjecting her to hour after cinematic hour seemed too cruel.) Diana and John reported that she had not wanted to eat the second evening she stayed with them. And Susan and Frank saw more of that behavior the next morning. (Susan texted us that Kyndall would nibble at her food morsels, IF Susan hand-fed her.)
Steve and I immediately assumed she probably ate something in Diana’s garden that disagreed with her. We texted back Susan, advising that they not feed her that night but give her plenty of water. And this seemed to work. Susan wrote back that Kyndall was behaving (and eating) normally for the rest of the weekend.
All seemed to be okay early this week at our house too. But then Thursday morning she once again refused to eat her breakfast. Instead she retched a couple of times and brought up some white foamy liquid. This was right before Steve, Kyndall, and I were scheduled to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend a conference. Once again, Kyndall wasn’t moping around or acting ill. She was defecating normally (a big relief, indicating that at least she probably didn’t have anything stuck in her gut — a common disaster in the retriever tribe.)
After we arrived in Scottsdale yesterday afternoon, I fed her some plain yogurt and one cup of dog food for dinner. She ate this all, if tentatively. She slowly, pensively ate a cup and a half plus more yogurt this morning. She seems bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to spring up and play whenever I give her the chance. Still, I find it so unnerving when one of our dogs doesn’t want to eat. Kyndall’s never been a puppy who had to be held back before pouncing on her dog bowl and gobbling down the contents. She consumes most meals at a more or less leisurely pace. But she’s 50% Labrador, and that breed generally worships food (and anything even remotely close to it). So I’m hoping this worry will soon fade away.